March 2013 and the wedding was only nine months away. The date was set, the venue booked, the first dance chosen. But all of a sudden, just like that, everything was broken – our engagement, his promises, my heart.
It was the kind of heartbreak that seeped into every ounce of my being – even my bones felt heavy with sadness. The spaces around me felt too small and I knew I had to get away, for a change of scenery and a chance to breathe.
Things started to feel different as soon as I stepped off the plane. Like putting on sunglasses after staring into the glare of the sun, the harshness of the world now seemed softer, more manageable.
A luxury car, a respectfully quiet driver, a coastal road, and finally a turn off at a non-descript gate leading up a long, winding driveway. Then I was there – The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, my sanctuary for two nights of soul-saving luxury.
Everything was comfortable, everyone was friendly, nobody asked why I was there or why I looked so sad. Perhaps I didn't look so sad anymore? It's easier to forget the weight on your shoulders when you have the most beautiful surroundings and a team of staff dedicated to making your every wish come true.
Exquisite food and wines were a balm for the soul, but it was the views that helped the most – wide open spaces, rolling Hawke's Bay farmland, the dramatic cliffs of Cape Kidnappers dropping down to the sparkling Pacific Ocean below. The world seemed bigger, and there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Years later, so much happier, and that Hawke's Bay heartbreak all but forgotten, I took a trip to Cape Kidnappers' sister lodge, Kauri Cliffs up in Northland with my friend Alice. She drove us there in her Honda Civic and we arrived after four hours on the road, dishevelled and with a car full of lolly wrappers and empty coffee cups. The lodge manager took her keys to valet park the car and didn't even bat an eyelid at the mess. His demeanour suggested, "of course, everyone's car looks like this on arrival," and he was so convincing we relaxed in an instant. That's the wonderful thing about luxury – you might think you don't belong, but no one else will make you feel that way.
September 2016. A new man, a better man. Our first luxurious weekend away together saw us take a private plane over the Hauraki Gulf to Whitianga. The Friday evening flight was like a promotional video for New Zealand – soft diffused light glinting off the gulf, the surface millpond-still, boats bobbing like bath toys in a tub.
The boutique lodge had everything we needed and more: a private chef cooking us a gourmet five-course dinner, oodles of wine, a bath with a view, and myriad cosy nooks for lounging, reading, and contemplating how happy we were.
The lodge was called 970 Lonely Bay, but there was nothing lonely about it. Life moves on, sad memories fade, and the good ones expand to perfectly fill the space left behind.
June 2020, and I'll soon be heading to Hawke's Bay for a luxurious weekend getaway. This time it'll be me plus one. Every story needs a happy ending.
For more New Zealand travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew